During the great John Lennon revival of the late '80s, Yoko Ono licensed to have the Westwood One Radio Network air scores of unreleased home recordings and demos as the Lost Lennon Tapes radio show. At the time, there was endless speculation about when highlights would be released, likely as a box set. The proposed set never materialized, yet most of the material was heavily bootlegged, as the producers and Ono must have suspected. Despite the bootlegs, Ono didn't agree to an official collection of unreleased Lennon material until 1998, after the Beatles
series proved a critical and commercial success. Hence, the birth of Lennon's Anthology
-- a four-disc box set, comprised entirely of unreleased home recordings, demos, and outtakes, many of which have never been previously bootlegged. As it's constructed, it's more of an aural biography than a music album. All the dialogue snippets, half-finished songs, throwaways, and parodies ensure that it's never casual listening, yet that very approach creates an intriguing portrait of Lennon -- a portrait of the man, not the artist. As such, there aren't really any forgotten treasures buried on the collection, even if many of these songs and takes are either completely unheard of or legendary among collecting circles. For every small pleasure, such as the Cheap Trick
-backed version of "I'm Losing You," there is a small disappointment, such as how the Dylan
diatribe, "Serve Yourself," doesn't quite live up to its legend. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if there are no major works or revelations, just a few good alternate tracks, because Anthology
goes a long way toward capturing Lennon with all of his strengths and weaknesses.